Obama Seeking to Boost Study of Human Brain

The Obama administration is planning a project tentatively known as the Brain Activity Map aimed at creating a comprehensive map of the human brain. The project could advance artificial intelligence research, uncover new mental illness treatments, and enhance the understanding of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, autism, and schizophrenia. Obama is expected to include the project in his budget proposal next month, and scientists involved in the Brain Activity Map hope for federal funding of at least $3 billion over the next 10 years. The project differs from the recently announced European Human Brain Project that will create a silicon-based “brain” using supercomputer simulation, which opponents argue is based on knowledge that is theoretical, incomplete, or inaccurate. Several new approaches have emerged for brain mapping, such as developing a series of molecule-size machines to noninvasively serve as sensors to measure and store brain activity at the cellular level, possibly storing brain activity on synthetic DNA. The Office of Science and Technology Policy would lead the project with participation from the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation.

More info: New York Times (02/17/13) John Markoff

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